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The exterior of the Arlington County Justice Center, where county courts are located (via Google Maps)

It’s once again the time of year when Arlington’s circuit court starts to select its jury pool for the next year.

Juror questionnaires are being sent soon to tens of thousands of Arlington and Falls Church residents, for jury duty in 2023. Would-be jurors are randomly selected from the voter rolls and will receive questionnaires in the mail.

Most jury trials in the circuit court last 1-2 days, an Arlington County press release says.

The full press release is below.

The Arlington Circuit Court, which includes the City of Falls Church, will soon begin its annual juror qualification process. Juror questionnaires will be mailed in August to approximately 35,000 randomly selected residents of Arlington County and Falls Church City. These Questionnaires are used to qualify residents for jury duty which begins January 1, 2023 and ends December 31, 2023.

  • In accordance with State law, questionnaires are distributed annually to a random selection of residents of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.
  • Recipients are selected from registered voter rolls provided by the State Board of Elections.
  • If you do not receive a form in the US Mail, there is nothing you need to do.
  • Jury Commissioners appointed by the Court review the questionnaires to determine eligibility for service according to criteria established by the General Assembly.

For more information about jury duty, including a list of individuals who are exempt from serving, please visit the Jury Duty page on the County website.

Not everyone will receive a Juror Questionnaire via Postcard in the US Mail. If you DO receive the form, please follow the steps below:

  • Read and carefully follow the instructions on the postcard.
  • Using your Candidate/Juror ID# printed on the postcard, visit the secure Juror Website at https://ejuror.arlingtonva.us/ to complete and submit the form online.
  • If you cannot logon to the Website, please try again later or try another browser.
  • If you do not have a computer, to have a paper copy of the form mailed to you, call 703-228-3123 and provide: 1) Candidate/Juror ID#, Pool #, and Group #; 2) first and last name; 3) street address with zip code; and 4) contact phone# or email for follow-up if needed. The Court prefers online submission to save time and resources.
  • Some questions on the form require submission of documents as proof of hardship (i.e., doctor’s notes, travel documents, military orders) and/or detailed explanations in the Remarks section. All information is kept confidential and destroyed after use.
  • If you no longer live in Virginia or have moved out of Arlington County or the City of Falls Church, there are questions on the form that will disqualify you.
  • You are required to complete and return the questionnaire within 10 days of receipt.  Completing the form online saves resources.
  • Once submitted, your completed questionnaire will be processed by the Court.  There will be nothing further you need to do.  If you are qualified by the court to serve, you could receive a summons in the mail next year with detailed reporting instructions.
  • The questionnaire is not a summons to appear so please do not call the Clerk’s Office asking to be excused from jury duty.  Excuses will be considered if you receive a summons in the mail.
  • Failure to respond to the questionnaire or providing incomplete information may result in your being summoned to Court to complete the form in person.

Quick Facts About Jury Service

  • Normal term of service is one day or one trial.
  • The average length of a trial is 1 or 2 days, but trials can last longer.
  • Jurors must be available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during their period of service (subject to change by the Court).
  • Jurors receive $30 each day they report for reimbursement of expenses.

Photo via Google Maps

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Two people were killed in the 200 block of Century Drive on Saturday, July 16 (staff photo by James Cullum)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m. on 7/20/22) The man arrested after the fatal shooting of two construction workers in Alexandria over the weekend was set to be tried for weapons and drug charges in Arlington earlier this year, but charges were dropped.

The reason: a ruling that police conducted an unconstitutional search prior to a 2020 arrest.

Francis Deonte Rose, 27, has so far only been charged with burglary in connection to an incident earlier Saturday morning at an Alexandria apartment complex, the scene of the double murder, but additional charges are expected.

Police say two workers, ages 48 and 24, were shot in the head and were “innocent bystanders to the whole situation.” Officers had been called to the Assembly Alexandria apartment complex around 7:30 a.m. Saturday for reports of someone kicking in the doors at “multiple” apartments, our sister site ALXnow reported yesterday.

Alexandria police radio traffic at the time suggested that the burglary suspect was the ex-boyfriend of an apartment resident and known to carry a gun.

Rose, meanwhile, has a history of gun charges. In 2019, a then-24-year-old Rose was arrested by Metropolitan Police in D.C. and charges with Carrying a Pistol without a License, Bench Warrant, Possession of Unregistered Ammunition, and Possession of an Unregistered Firearm.

The .45 caliber handgun he was allegedly carrying in the Columbia Heights neighborhood was confiscated, according to an MPD press release.

In October 2020, Rose was arrested again, this time in Arlington.

From Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage:

At approximately 10:23 p.m. on October 17, 2020, officers conducted a traffic stop in the 2300 block of Richmond Highway for a suspended operator’s license. During the course of the investigation, the passenger was found to be in possession of narcotics and a loaded handgun and ammunition were located in a bag alleged to belong to the passenger. Francis Rose, 25, of Washington D.C. was arrested and charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substance (x2), Possession of a Firearm while in Possession of a Controlled Substance (x2), Possession of a Firearm as a Convicted Felon, Possession of Ammunition as a Convicted Felon and Carrying a Concealed Weapon.

Rose was charged with possession of cocaine and intent to manufacture, sell or distribute fentanyl, according to court documents, as well as possession of a gun and ammunition by someone convicted of a felony within the past 10 years.

The charges against Francis Rose, which were then dropped

A grand jury indicted Rose in September 2021, and he was set for a jury trial this past February when defense attorneys made a motion to suppress evidence in the case.

That motion was granted by Arlington Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman, according to court records, and charges were then dropped for a lack of evidence. Rose was later freed.

In all, he was in the county jail from Oct. 18, 2020 until Feb. 23, 2022, according to the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office.

Reached via email by ARLnow, Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said the case was made impossible to prosecute after the judge’s ruling.

“As court records show, our office attempted to proceed on those charges, but during a suppression hearing, a judge ruled that the police had performed an unconstitutional search and, as the law required, suppressed the evidence in the case,” the county’s top prosecutor said. “Obviously, we could not prove a case without the evidence, and therefore dismissed it.”

“My heart breaks for the families and loved ones of the people killed this weekend,” Dehghani-Tafti said.

Asked about the case, an Arlington police spokeswoman said “ACPD does not opine on decisions made by the court.”

The defense motion to suppress the evidence, obtained by ARLnow from the circuit court after the initial publication of this article, argues that both the drugs and the guns should be excluded from any jury trial. It says that officers found the gun in a bag that Rose was wearing but ordered by officers to leave in the car. The bag was then searched and the gun found, followed by the discovery of “a small quantity” of drugs, the motion says.

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Scene of attempted bank robbery at 4075 Wilson Blvd (staff photo)

From Philadelphia to Los Angeles to nearby Fairfax County, and here in Arlington, prosecutors running on criminal justice reform platforms were elected in a wave.

But since they’ve taken office, some have questioned whether their approach to crime is too soft. A recall election in San Francisco ousted its chief prosecutor, and last year, Arlington’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti also faced a recall campaign, though it never seriously threatened her tenure in office.

Since she took office in January 2020, some types of crime have increased. At the same time, the pandemic pushed her, defense attorneys and the sheriff’s office to reduce the number of people jailed, and staffing shortages led to a cut in some police department services, such as follow-up investigations on property crimes it deemed unsolvable.

Dehghani-Tafti tells ARLnow that when crime is up, the “tough-on-crime crowd” says to “be tougher” and when it’s down, they say to keep jailing people because “it’s working.” But she believes progressive policies and expanding diversion programs for nonviolent offenders can better help them stay on the right side of the law.

She emphasized that her office takes violent crime seriously. The violent crime rate in Arlington was below the state and national averages in 2021. Meanwhile, police officers working with Dehghani-Tafti generally approve of the way her office pursues violent crime charges, Arlington Police Beneficiary Association President Rich Conigliaro tells ARLnow.

Fewer prosecutions of nonviolent crimes 

Although the police don’t believe Arlington has a major crime issue, the department has seen more crime sprees in the last few years, Conigliaro said. There was an overall 8.5% increase in property crime in 2021 compared to 2019, according to ACPD’s annual report.

“Group A” rates of property crime (via ACPD)

Police have dealt with cases where the defendant had committed multiple property crimes, such as burglaries, in jurisdictions across Virginia. In one such case, a Maryland man, who was out on bail for charges in Fairfax County, was arrested in Arlington on similar charges, including stealing and spitting on an officer after his arrest.

After that incident, Dehghani-Tafti’s office dropped two charges and downgraded a felony charge into a misdemeanor as a plea agreement. His 180-day jail sentence in Arlington was suspended and he was extradited to Maryland to face prior charges there, according to court documents.

Dehghani-Tafti’s office has downgraded felony charges into misdemeanors for cases that “normally would not have seen that level of a plea bargain being agreed upon” on multiple occasions, Conigliaro said. Detectives are concerned with this trend, he added.

Brad Haywood, the chief public defender in the county, also said Dehghani-Tafti’s office seemed less likely to press felony charges where a misdemeanor charge may apply, such as with nonviolent or minor property and drug cases, he said.

Haywood said her office seems more willing to give people with behavioral issues a second chance by ensuring they receive treatments instead of jail time, unlike her predecessor Theo Stamos. Stamos, who is now working in the office of Attorney General Jason Miyares, declined to comment for this article.

Generally, there have been fewer felony indictments under Dehghani-Tafti compared to Stamos, according to performance data gathered in the latest proposed budget from the Commonwealth’s Attorney office. The number of indictments issued by the Circuit Court decreased 37% from 713 in fiscal year 2019 to 449 in fiscal year 2021. The number of sentencing events dropped by almost 57% from 354 in fiscal year 2019 to 153 in fiscal year 2021.

The number of criminal misdemeanor cases that appeared before the General District Court also decreased by 23.4% from 3,476 in fiscal year 2019 to 2,662 in fiscal year 2021.

A table shows the performance data since fiscal year 2018 (via Arlington County)

In Dehghani-Tafti’s view, prisons cannot effectively rehabilitate an offender. She cited a meta study published by the University of Chicago Press last year that showed incarcerations are less effective in reducing recidivism.

Dehghani-Tafti believes the biggest change she brought to Arlington was creating new diversion programs for adults. Her office is taking part in the Motion for Justice Project, which connects participants to social services and treatments, as well as partnering with the nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration to provide diversion programs.

“I came in guided by the idea that safety and justice are not opposite values, they are rather complementary values,” Dehghani-Tafti said. “And that we can treat people like people and crime like crime.”

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The exterior of the Arlington County Justice Center, where the General District Court is located (via Google Maps)

A contract that’s part of a $1.9 million project to renovate “the courtroom of the future” is set to go before the Arlington County Board.

The Board plans to vote on Saturday (July 16) on an $890,000 construction contract to upgrade Arlington General District Court Courtroom 10B with technology updates and layout improvements. If approved, the contract will go to Michigan-based construction company Sorensen Gross.

Arlington courtrooms haven’t had a major renovation since 1994, according to a report to the County Board.

“Significant technology development has introduced new forms of evidence, including recordings from police body-worn cameras and smartphone cameras,” the report says. “Additional courtroom technology is needed to show this evidence to only the required participants. This technology prototype will address these issues and provide a more flexible setting for future expansion/modification to the system.”

The construction project is set to include renovations such as raising the floor to make routing cables easier, new video monitors and sound systems that coordinate microphones and integrate translation capabilities. By adding a new “technology backbone,” the county aims to give “more direct control of multimedia presentations,” according to the report.

The spectator area, jury box and witness stand are also set for changes, according to a Q&A document with prospective vendors. The changes will comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and improve the layout for judges, witnesses and clerks, according to the report.

The total budget for the project is around $1.9 million, which was included in the county’s adopted fiscal year 2022-2024 Capital Improvement Plan. In addition to the construction contract, the total cost reflects around $370,000 in design and administrative costs and $250,000 in contingency costs.

Construction is currently expected to start in early August and should be mostly complete by July of next year, according to the Q&A document.

Photo via Google Maps

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Arlington Smoke Shop in Green Valley (photo via Google)

(Updated at 5:35 p.m.) An Arlington jury has found a store employee not guilty in the shooting of a burglar, in a case that received national media attention.

It all started with a burglary of the Arlington Smoke Shop, at 2428 Shirlington Road in the Green Valley neighborhood, shortly before 5 a.m. on March 29, 2020. Three masked suspects allegedly broke into the store and started stealing cash and merchandise.

Shop employee Hamzeh Abushariah was sleeping in a back room of the store at the time due to Covid concerns at his D.C. apartment building. Prosecutors alleged that Abushariah grabbed a gun and shot one of the suspects, who was under the age of 18, point blank in the back.

Abushariah was arrested and charged with Malicious Wounding, Reckless Handling of a Firearm and Violation of a Protective Order. Two juvenile suspects, including the one who was shot and seriously injured, were later charged in connection to the burglary.

The Reckless Handling of a Firearm charge was dismissed in April, court records show, a week after Abushariah was levied with a contempt charge for misbehavior in court. The protective order charge remains active, with a hearing set for this coming Tuesday.

But yesterday, after a trial in Arlington Circuit Court that started on Monday, a jury found Abushariah not guilty of Malicious Wounding, the most serious charge.

“I can’t even explain how happy I am,” Abushariah told ARLnow. “I’m home with my family. There’s nothing like being free especially when you know you’re innocent.”

Jowan Zuber, the owner of the store who has appeared several times on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight in defense of Abushariah, said the verdict was vindication.

“I broke down when the verdict, all 12 jurors, came [back] not guilty, self-defense,” Zuber said. “So they saw that the Commonwealth had no evidence holding Hamzeh Abushariah for two years, no evidence, taking him away from his kids and his livelihood when we’ve been fighting.”

He said that video played during the trial showed that it was dark in the store when the break-in occurred.

“So when he shot, he did not know where he was aiming,” said Zuber. “[Prosecutors] really hurt this guy big time.”

He said the verdict brings relief for Abushariah’s family after “two years of nightmare going back and forth.”

“The suffering, the tears that my wife, my kids, my family, my sisters, my parents, it’s not cheap, it’s not nothing. It’s something, it means a lot to me,” Abushariah said.

Abushariah was in jail for several months after the shooting, then released on house arrest for four months before he was arrested again, Zuber said. He has been in jail since, before being released around 6 p.m. Wednesday night.

Both Zuber and Abushariah thanked the jury and said they had to mention defense attorney Robert Marshall’s work on the case. In a video posted to Facebook, Abushariah reunites with his family leaving jail as Zuber says it’s all thanks to Marshall.

“We believed in [Marshall] since day 1, and he just went and just showed what the righteous is about and showed that we shouldn’t protect criminals and you have the right to protect yourself when people are coming to hurt you or break in in a violent way,” Zuber told ARLnow. “This is very bad for Arlington because we are here as citizens, we pay our taxes, and we want to protect the good people, not the bad… The jury, the people, made this happen.”

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church, provided a brief statement to ARLnow.

“As always, we respect the verdict and thank the jurors for their service,” the county’s top prosecutor said.

In response to additional questions from ARLnow, Tafti declined to provide other details about the case and the end result of the charges against the two burglary suspects.

“These were juvenile dispositions, and therefore not public record,” she said.

Newly free, Abushariah said it’s nice to see his children, and the green grass and enjoy the weather and good food.

“The smallest things mean so much when you’re free,” he said. “The smallest things in life matter.”

He said he wishes the person he shot well.

“I hope his life will get better, that he will recover, both of us will,” he said.

Brandi Bottalico contributed to this report

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Morning Notes

Squirrel defeating a bird feeder (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Planning for Fmr. Inner Ear Site — “Arlington Cultural Affairs is working with public art and placemaking firm Graham Projects to design a future arts space at 2700 S. Nelson Street/2701 S. Oakland Street in Green Valley, and we are looking for your inspiration and input. A flexible, outdoor open space is planned for the site, which will be designed following the planned demolition of the existing building this fall. In the meantime, we want YOUR thoughts and ideas!” [Arlington County]

Big Money for Growing Local Company — “Arlington’s Federated Wireless Inc. has raised an additional $14 million in a second closing of its latest round of funding — bringing the raise’s total to $72 million — as it looks to augment the private wireless market.” [Washington Business Journal]

Refugee Wins Reprieve in Court — “In a brief ruling from the bench that surprised both sides with its speed, Circuit Court Judge William T. Newman Jr. in December declared Khoy’s plea vacated. Khoy reached for her lawyer’s arm in disbelief. Was the nightmare really over?” [Washington Post]

Events to Mark Civic Association Anniversary — “The John M. Langston Citizens Association will celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the organization with a series of events during the weekend of May 13th through 15th. The Opening Program on Friday, May 13th at the Langston-Brown Community Center will feature recognition of the 28 plaintiffs from the Thompson v. Arlington School Board 1958 court case who were denied entrance to white schools, when the Stratford Four… were admitted on February 2, 1959.” [HallsHill.com]

SoberRide for Cinco de Mayo — “Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the 2022 Cinco de Mayo SoberRide® program will be in operation beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) and operate until 4:00 a.m. on Friday, May 6th as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk period.” [WRAP]

Circulator Strike Planned — “Fed up with a lack of progress in contract talks and unfair labor practices, the bus drivers for the DC Circulator, employed by RATP Dev, will be on strike tomorrow morning, Tuesday, May 3rd and will stay out until an agreement is reached.” [ATU Local 689]

It’s Tuesday — Partly sunny during the day, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 8 p.m. High of 75 and low of 56. Sunrise at 6:09 am and sunset at 8:04 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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A discarded mask in Fairlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Masks are now optional on Metro, on Amtrak and on many airlines.

The announcements were made last night after a judge struck down the federal transportation mask mandate. Some cheered the end of the mandates, while others urged travelers to remain masked regardless.

For Metro, the end of the mask mandate extends to both riders and employees.  From a press release:

Effective immediately, Metro will make masks optional on Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess for its customers. Masks also will be optional for Metro employees. This change comes as a result of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suspending enforcement, while the Biden Administration reviews a federal judge’s ruling.

“Our mask mandate has been based on federal guidance,” said General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld. “We will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds, but masks will be optional on Metro property until further notice.”

Metro encourages its customers to make decisions that are in their best interests. Updates will be provided as new information becomes available.

So far, there’s no word from Arlington Transit about the status of masks on ART buses. In New York City, the subway system has, for now, continued to require masks.

In general, what do you think of the decision to end mask mandates on public transportation? Also, do you plan on continuing to wear masks regardless?

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Morning Notes

Heavy rain along the Potomac River, with Rosslyn in the background (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Mysterious Bug Bites Reported — Arlington residents are against dealing with red and intensely itchy bug bites, the cause of which is so far unclear. One theory is that last year’s scourge of oak mites are back. [Facebook, WUSA 9]

Catalytic Converter Thefts in Fairlington — “A resident has reported that the catalytic converter on their Toyota Prius was stolen during the night March 21, 2022. The converter was physically cut away from the vehicle. There have been 7 similar thefts of catalytic converters reported from the Fairlington neighborhoods.” [Twitter]

Man Pistol Whipped By Intruder — “2000 block of S. Kenmore Street. At approximately 2:15 p.m. on March 22, police were dispatched to the report of trouble unknown. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was inside his residence when the three known suspects forced entry inside and struck him with a firearm. The victim then deployed pepper spray and the suspects fled the scene. The victim sustained non-life threatening injuries and was transported to an area hospital for medical treatment. Warrants were obtained for one suspect.” [ACPD]

Gym in Crystal City Unionizes — From Washingtonian’s Andrew Beaujon: “Movement Crystal City is the US’s first unionized climbing gym. We wrote about this place when it was called Earth Treks.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Help for Arlington’s Ukrainian Sister City — “That partnership, which came to fruition after years of advocacy by Sonevytsky, has mostly focused on cultural and professional exchanges. But the unprovoked Russian attack on Ukraine last month changed all that. Now, the Arlington Sister City Association and the volunteer group that runs the Ivano-Frankivsk relationship are focused on a new mission: helping send humanitarian aid to their partner city and educating Arlington residents about their community’s ties to a place now in a war zone.” [WAMU]

Reminder: Free Observation Deck in Rosslyn — “If you’re looking for views of the blossoms at the Tidal Basin and beyond, head to The View of DC, located at 1201 Wilson Boulevard! This 360-degree observation deck is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with evening hours until 9 p.m. on Mondays!) and admission is free with a valid government ID.” [Rosslyn BID]

Injunction Against Va. Mask-Optional Law — “Preliminary injunction granted by the federal court preventing defendants from enforcing EO 2 and SB 739 (the mask-optional law) in schools where the plaintiffs & their children are enrolled.” [Twitter, Washington Post, WJLA]

Pappy Is Back at Virginia ABC — “Good news bourbon lovers: Virginia’s annual Pappy Van Winkle lottery is back — this year with two types of Van Winkles… Anyone 21 and over with a valid Virginia driver’s license (you have to prove it when you show up to purchase) can enter the lotteries on Virginia ABC’s website from Wednesday, March 23 until Sunday, March 27 at 11:59pm.” [Axios]

It’s Thursday — After early morning storms, light rain throughout much the day. High of 66 and low of 58. Sunrise at 7:06 am and sunset at 7:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Efren Cruz (courtesy of ACPD)

A man accused of raping a teenager in Arlington 13 years ago will be going to trial later this month.

The two-year-long process to bring him to trial in what was once considered a cold case may be facing delays, however, after a mistrial was declared last week.

Efren Cruz, 43, is accused of rape and sodomy. He fled Arlington sometime after the rape in 2009, authorities say, and the investigation went cold until the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers found and arrested him in 2016.

Cruz is a Honduran citizen who came to the U.S. in 1998, according to ICE. He was extradited back to Virginia and arrested in March 2020. A grand jury indicted him on rape and sodomy charges in August of that year.

His initial trial, which began last Monday (Feb. 28), ended a day later when the presiding judge declared a mistrial. The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Arlington Public Defender Office both declined to comment on why this happened, citing professional obligations given that the case is still pending

We are told, however, that the court proceedings somehow lacked transparency and the judge declared the case a mistrial in an abundance of caution, allowing a new trial to be scheduled.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors met today (Wednesday) with Arlington Circuit Court Judge Louise M. DiMatteo and rescheduled the trial for Monday, March 21. An attorney speaking on behalf of Senior Assistant Public Defender Lauren Brice, who is representing Cruz, told the judge this would be enough time for Brice to file new motions in the case based on forthcoming transcripts documenting “whatever happened” in the courtroom last week.

Addressing the prosecution, DiMatteo said she imagines “the remedies that need to take place” after last week are “happening right now.”

The Cruz case dates back to Aug. 28, 2009, when a teen girl told the Arlington County Police Department that a man had sexually assaulted her in her in the 3500 block of S. Ball Street, near Crystal City. Different documents say the alleged victim, named K.C. in court documents, was 13 or 14 years old at the time.

Court records indicate the teenager underwent a physical exam so DNA could be collected. Eventually, a forensic analysis from 2017 determined Cruz “cannot be eliminated as a contributor” of the DNA evidence that was found on her.

The day after K.C. went to ACPD, a felony warrant was issued for Cruz, a then-30-year-old Woodbridge resident and construction worker. Cruz fled to the Houston area sometime between the rape and December 2010, when he was convicted in Texas on charges of criminal mischief and evading arrest and detention charges under a different name, according to court records. At the time, local law enforcement apparently did not know he was a wanted man in Virginia.

Struggling to find Cruz in the months after the rape, detectives in Arlington requested the public’s assistance in a press release dated Nov. 6, 2009.

Without any leads as to his whereabouts, the case in Arlington eventually went cold. It was reassigned in late 2015 to the U.S. Marshals Service, which worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to locate him, according to a press release from ICE.

The two law enforcement agencies found Cruz — who was on Virginia’s Most Wanted List, according to the article — living in Houston under the alias of Anthony Sanchez. He was arrested without incident in March 2016.

Court records note that Cruz was a serial offender, with a 2009 larceny conviction and an arrest for soliciting a prostitute. ICE officers also connected him to a sex offense against a minor in 2012 in Houston, under his alias of Anthony Sanchez. He was convicted of indecent sexual contact with a child in Texas in 2017, according to court records.

After an Arlington grand jury indicted Cruz in 2020, multiple trial dates were set and then withdrawn, including one instance said to be due to staffing changes within the defender’s office that his attorneys argued would hurt his case.

A 2018 surveillance image of Columbia Pike rape suspect Salodus Zeloter Hicks (photo courtesy ACPD)

A D.C. man convicted of raping a massage therapist in a Columbia Pike apartment building in 2018 has been sentenced to life in prison.

It was the second rape conviction for 63-year-old Salodus Zeloter Hicks, thus leading to the lengthy sentence from Arlington County Circuit Court Judge Louise DiMatteo.

Hicks was arrested less than a week after the crime, after a 16-hour standoff at a home in Northwest D.C. Arlington County police were assisted by D.C. police and the FBI; Hicks was safely apprehended after he finally surrendered.

In a statement, Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn called Hicks “a sexual predator [who] will never have the opportunity to target another member of our community.” Arlington’s top prosecutor, Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, said the sentence “is severe, but warranted.”

More from a county press release, below.

After being found guilty by an Arlington County jury in September, Salodus Zeloter Hicks, 63, of Washington D.C. was sentenced on Friday, February 25, 2022, to life in prison plus 12 months for a rape that occurred in 2018. Judge DiMatteo imposed a sentence of life in prison on the charge of rape (2nd offense) and 12 months on the charge of assault & battery.

At approximately 4:02 p.m. on September 17, 2018, police responded to the 5500 block of Columbia Pike for the late report of a rape. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim and suspect made contact through an online advertisement for massage therapy. After the suspect arrived for the massage appointment, he asked for sexual services and when the victim refused, he strangled and raped her.

Following the assault, the suspect fled the scene but was captured on surveillance video. A press release requesting the public’s assistance helped identify Hicks as the suspect. On the evening of September 26, 2018, detectives attempted to execute search and arrest warrants on the suspect at his residence in NW Washington, D.C. The suspect refused to exit the residence and following a 16-hour barricade, he surrendered and was taken into police custody with assistance by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and Metropolitan Police Department. Once in custody, the search warrant was executed and additional evidence linking him to the rape was recovered.

“Mr. Hicks never made any statements about what occurred, but the evidence did all the talking for him,” said Chief Andy Penn. “The persistent investigative work and prosecution led to an ultimate sentence that ensures a sexual predator will never have the opportunity to target another member of our community.”

“I’m grateful to the survivor for her courage in testifying against her attacker, and to the police and our trial team for their dedication in investigating and prosecuting the case,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. “A life sentence is severe, but warranted, because Mr. Hicks previously had been convicted of rape. Our duty first, last, and always is to protect the community from the sort of harm Mr. Hicks caused while affording him a fair trial, and we did that.”

Arlington County has created a new youth program aimed at diverting young people who commit crimes from the criminal justice system.

The program, called “Heart of Safety,” is the first county program established to find alternatives to prosecution in certain misdemeanor and felony cases committed by juveniles and young adults, according to a press release from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, the top prosecutor for Arlington and the City of Falls Church, announced today (Tuesday) that she signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Arlington Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Services Unit and a county initiative called Restorative Arlington to found Heart of Safety.

Restorative Arlington began in 2020 to introduce to the public schools system, legal system and community new ways of holding people accountable for their crimes without putting them through the court process.

The founders of Heart of Safety say it will give victims a say in what they need to feel that justice has been served, while holding those who committed the crime accountable and reducing future crimes in the long run.

“Heart of Safety is about survivors’ rights, youth rehabilitation, and crime prevention; for survivors, it’s the peace of mind of taking charge of their recovery; for young people, it’s a second chance to make right what they did wrong; and for the community, it’s an investment in crime prevention,” said Dehghani-Tafti, who campaigned on a justice reform platform in 2019.

People who commit crimes and victims can volunteer to resolve their case through a conferencing process. Either the victim or the person who committed the crime must be 26 or younger when the incident took place to participate.

Cases have to be identified and deemed appropriate for the conferencing process, which is overseen by a trained facilitator. This person talks with both parties to listen to their experiences, understand what they need and determine if they should meet. If so, the facilitator brings the participants together to draft a restoration plan and follows up with them later to ensure they completed the plan and are satisfied with the outcome.

If this process doesn’t resolve the case, the Commonwealth’s Attorney can open a prosecution case.

“Heart of Safety embodies the priorities and interests of our community and is in full alignment with best practices in restorative justice diversion,” Restorative Arlington Executive Director Kimiko Lighty said. “We are grateful to be able to offer this long-awaited option for people who have been harmed in our community.”

Restorative Arlington worked with volunteers — victims of crimes, formerly incarcerated persons, teens and young adults — over the course of two years to establish Heart of Safety, according to the county.

Leaders of Restorative Arlington, meanwhile, are working with Arlington Public Schools to draft an agreement that would allow schools to refer students directly to Heart of Safety. The county says this will allow schools to hold students accountable for wrongdoing while keeping them out of the criminal justice system.

“Restorative Arlington’s Heart of Safety program will provide a great new option for diverting some youth from the traditional court process,” said Earl Conklin, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Services Unit Director. “It is an alternative model that has proven successful for both the youth and those who have been harmed.”

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